Saturday, April 30, 2016

Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry.

Broward GOPer a real class act

"Broward Republican leader says when Trump debates Clinton 'she's going to go down like Monica Lewinsky'."

Bondi's latest excuse

"Democrats have scolded Bondi for not doing more to help the case against Trump University, since she has joined lawsuits brought by other states, including actions against the Affordable Care Act and a ruling allowing the Environmental Protection Agency to enforce a cleanup plan for Chesapeake Bay."

"Florida's Attorney General has not hesitated to join losing, transparently partisan lawsuits around the country because she felt it was the best way to score political points,'' said Florida Democratic Party spokesman Max Steele on Friday. "But when Donald Trump defrauded Floridians with his sham Trump University, Bondi shrugged off the complaints and did nothing except collect a $25,000 check from none other than the Donald Trump Foundation."
"Trump campaign aides said the political donation made by his charity — an apparent violation of tax laws governing nonprofits — was a mistake, according to the Washington Post."
When asked whether Bondi planned to give back the $25,000 donation or give it to charity, Ray referred a reporter to Bondi campaign aides, who did not return an email.
"Bondi: Trump U. complaints came before I took office."

Jeb! struggles for relevancy

"Jeb Bush says Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz made a “smart move” in choosing Carly Fiorina as his running mate. Bush, a former contender for the GOP nomination, said Thursday that front-runner Donald Trump is 'not a serious person,' especially on foreign policy matters."

Reshaping Florida’s congressional delegation

"Redistricting, retirements and runs for higher office will reshape Florida’s congressional delegation in a big way in 2016 – sapping some of its Capitol clout and possibly sending more Democrats from the state to Washington." "Florida congressional turnover highest in U.S.; GOP still to dominate."

Scott sends "shock wave through legal circles"

"In a move that critics claim smacks of an attempt to pack the court, Florida Gov. Rick Scott this week announced plans to appoint someone to replace a judge leaving the Palm Beach County bench even though the county’s elections supervisor said state law calls for the replacement to be elected by voters."

Attorney Gregg Lerman, who had already announced plans to run for the seat, vowed to file a lawsuit if Scott won’t back down from his plans to appoint a judge to replace longtime County Court Judge Laura Johnson, who is resigning to seek a seat on the circuit court bench.

“I think the governor is trying to steal the electoral process from the voters of Palm Beach County,” Lerman said. “He would like a more conservative bench than currently exists.” . . .

The disagreement is rooted in different interpretations of the provision of the Florida Constitution that gives the governor the power to fill judicial vacancies and the state’s resign-to-run law.

Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher said the resign-to-run law is clear. Because Johnson’s term isn’t scheduled to end until January 2021, she had to submit a letter of resignation to the governor before she would be allowed to formally file papers to run for circuit judge.

Under the law, her letter had to be sent 10 days before the start of the weeklong qualifying period for judicial elections, which is Monday. And she had to resign by the date she would take office if she’s elected as circuit judge, Jan. 3.

Once Johnson resigned, Bucher said, the county court post was an open seat. Lerman, longtime county Magistrate Thomas Baker and attorney Lisa Grossman then announced their intentions to run for it in the August election.

Then this week Scott sent a letter to the local Judicial Nominating Commission, asking it to solicit applications from lawyers who may be interested in Johnson’s job. The commission only nominates in cases where the governor is appointing a judge.

Asked about Scott’s intention to appoint, the Florida Division of Elections cited only the provision in the Constitution defining the governor’s power to appoint judges.

The letter sent a shock wave through legal circles. Some called it a power-grab. Others complained the dual interpretations of election law was just confusing.

"Scott plan to replace judge with appointment decried as court packing."

"What's hot, crazy or shady about politics in the Sunshine State"

Marc Caputo: "Rubio issues ZIKA WARNING -- Broward GOP chair goes there – Orange-less County – Flori-duh Men of Tinder, illustrated" "Florida Playbook."

"Latino voters in Florida will be a top priority"

"As Hillary Clinton increasingly turns her attention to a general election against Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, her campaign and fellow Democrats have begun in earnest to bolster staff and campaign organizations in key battleground states."

In Virginia, Ohio and Florida -- the three biggest swing states in the last election -- the Clinton campaign is teaming up with state and national Democratic organizations to build voter files, organize thousands of volunteers, register tens of thousands of voters and raise the funds necessary to compete against a Republican opponent. . . .

In Florida, Democrats have been registering voters at a rate of 2,000 to 3,000 a month this year, slightly exceeding the registration rate during the same period in 2008. . . .

In Florida . . . GOP registration has increased by 100,000 voters this year -- although much of that is attributed to primary enthusiasm and not the organizational efforts of the party. There and in North Carolina, Republican registration exceeds that of Democrats, said RNC spokesman Ryan Mahoney. All told, across seven battleground states, party officials have taken credit for registering more than 20,000 voters. . . .

In Florida in 2012, Obama's campaign registered more than 350,000 voters -- four times Obama's victory margin over Mitt Romney on election night, according to Ashley Walker, who ran Obama's reelection efforts in the state that year. . . .

The [DNC] is also preparing to transfer funds to state parties in Ohio, Florida and Virginia -- $200,000 apiece -- to finance the salaries of field organizers in those states. . . .

Latino voters in Florida will also be a top priority. According to Clinton's allies, the slate of Republican candidates has given their camp unprecedented "ammunition."

"I see people with sound trucks in West Tampa diving around with bullhorns saying, 'Is this what you want?'" said Anna Cruz, a longtime Clinton ally who ran her 2008 Florida campaign. "You know, barriers. We've been given so much by these candidates to motivate Hispanic voters."

"Clinton and Democratic leaders turn their focus to November swing states."